BAHS Home | AB Info | Neighborhoods
Harvard Ave and Cambridge St Architecture

This linear, Harvard Avenue area runs north south along both sides of Harvard Avenue between the Boston and Albany Railroad tracks at Franklin Street and Commonwealth Avenue. Additionally, a cul-de-sac called Harvard Terrace is included within this area. With the exception of a half dozen apartment buildings, this area is overwhelmingly commercial. Harvard Avenue is lined primarily by one and two story commercial blocks dating between 1910 and the 1980s, with the majority dating from the 1920s. In terms of architectural style, these commercial blocks are characterized by Georgian Revival, Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Tudoresque elements. Additionally, a small node of late 19th century masonry commercial blocks is still extant at the intersection of Cambridge and Franklin Streets. Noteworthy non residential buildings in this area include the classical revival fire Station at 10 Harvard Avenue, the Allston Methodist Episcopal Church at 62 Harvard Avenue, and the Richardsonian Romanesque Allston Depot designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge Allston at Cambridge and Franklin Streets.

This area is essentially composed of three segments including: 1) the node of late 19th century commercial blocks and Allston Depot clustered the intersection of Cambridge, Franklin and Harvard Streets, 2) the stretch of early 20th century commercial blocks and apartment buildings between Cambridge Street and Brighton Avenue; and 3) a collection of commercial blocks between Brighton Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue which although less intact than those of the second segment of Harvard Street, nevertheless conveys the appearance and feeling of a 1910 to 1920s commercial thoroughfare. 

Beginning with the northern segment which encompasses the oldest structures within this area, it should be noted that the collection of buildings at the Cambridge Street / Franklin Street / Harvard Avenue intersection are one to three stories tall as opposed to the more typical height of one to two stories for the remainder of the area. Particularly noteworthy is the contiguous trio of commercial blocks at the northwest corner of Cambridge and Franklin Streets. 379-385 Cambridge Street, corner of Franklin Street, is a largely unspoiled example of a c. 1880 brick commercial and residential block. Designed by Franz Joseph Untersee, the Chester Block is a three-story rectangular red brick building with three bays along Franklin Street and 17 bays along Cambridge Street. The first floor currently contains six stores interspersed with four recessed entrances to the apartments of the upper floors. The storefronts have been modernized for the most part although original vertical cast iron components are still in evidence. Ornamentation is confined to corbelled cornices which repeat an arch shaped pattern of stepped bricks. Windows exhibit simple brownstone sills and lintels. Near the center of the Cambridge Street facade is a stone plaque with incised lettering which reads "Chester Block."

The Chester Block is part of a trio of late Victorian masonry commercial blocks bordering Franklin Street and overlooking the Richardsonian Romanesque, Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge designed Allston Depot. The middle building at 4-8 Franklin Street has been altered on its first floor by the application of modern gray and white bricks while the brickwork of its upper two floors has been painted white. Like the Chester Block, the windows of its 6 bay main facade exhibit simple brownstone sills and lintels and it culminates in a corbelled cornice. The four windows at the center of the main facade's second and third floors have been filled in with concrete blocks.

The northern most building of this trio is the Allston Hall Block at 10 Franklin Street. Rising to a height of 3.5 stories, this brick Queen Anne, mansard style rectangular structure possesses a seven-bay main facade with ten bays along Braintree Street. Old black and white photographs of this property show bricks of light coloration which contrast with quoin-like configurations of dark colored brickwork. Presently the masonry has been uniformly blackened by city soot. The ground floor is divided into two storefronts (with vertical metal piers still in evidence) and an entrance at its southeast corner. The storefronts exhibit modern infill brickwork. A stone plaque on the main facade beneath the roofs cornice reads "18 Allston Hall Block 90" in incised letters. The mansard roof is straight sided and steeply pitched with the slopes of its two formally finished elevations exhibiting broad, brownstone trimmed Queen Anne wall dormers containing Palladian windows. A sign between the second and third floor windows of the main facade read "Cambridge Automotive Warehouse Co." The second floor windows contain 4/4 wood sash, while the windows of the third floor and mansard are covered with boards.

Across Franklin Street, adjacent to the Boston and Albany Railroad is the old Allston Depot at 353 Cambridge Street. Designed by Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge in 1887, this railroad station is Richardsonian Romanesque in style. This long, low, 1.5 story rectangular structure is constructed of white granite with brownstone trimmings. In typical Richardsonian Romanesque fashion, the building materials are rusticated and rock faced. Additionally, a trio of attic windows at the center of the narrow end wall gables exhibit H.H. Richardson's predilection for arched windows. The east gable culminates in a low chimney. A later, enclosed porch borders the railroad tracks and evidently dates to this building's recent reincarnation as a restaurant. Its ten bay main facade exhibits square headed windows set deeply within the masonry facade.

The Georgian Revival, yellow brick Allen Building at 334-354 Cambridge Street and 1 to 9 Linden Street is prominently sited at the corner of Cambridge and Linden streets. Its northeast corner is characterized by an unusually broad, bow front. From the first of its Linden Street bays, rounding the great curved corner and continuing to the last bay of the Cambridge facade, this great expanse of brick wall is pierced by 25 bays, culminating is a molded metal modillion block cornice. The Allen Building is adjacent to the southwest side of the bridge over the Boston and Albany Railway and is a highly visible landmark from the Massachusetts Turnpike just to the north. In terms of design, this building has an almost exaggerated emphasis on horizontal lines with continuous sill courses beneath the windows of the second and fourth floors. Eleven of the 25 windows of the second and third floors are treated as shallow, two story paneled copper oriels. The second and third floor windows of the bowed segment are fully enframed and cornice headed in the Renaissance Revival manner. The majority of the windows exhibit Georgian Revival wedge shaped brick work lintels with brownstone keystones.

The small, Italianate mansard cottage at 390 Cambridge Street is the only single family residence in this area, serving as a reminder of Harvard Avenue's overwhelmingly residential character prior to early 20th century commercialization. Although altered by the application of vinyl siding and modern fenestration treatments, this house retains its original hip on bell cast mansard roof. Next door to this house was the Washington Allston School built during the late 19th century and torn down during the 1970s. This large, E-shaped masonry Queen Anne school building would have effectively anchored the northwestern corner of the Harvard Avenue area. All that remains of the Allston School is a low granite retaining wall which should be included within a Harvard Avenue Area historic district.

The segment of Harvard Avenue between Cambridge Street and Brighton Avenue is more intact, in terms of historic fabric, than the stretch of this thoroughfare between Brighton and Commonwealth Avenues. Both the northern and southern segments of Harvard Avenue derive their distinctive character from the scale of long, low (mostly one to two story commercial blocks) with considerable expanses of storefront windows set off by ornamentation typical of the Georgian Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Craftsman styles popular during the first three decades of the twentieth century. This progression of long rectangular commercial blocks is occasionally broken by three to four story apartment buildings representative of the Georgian or Tudor Revival styles as well as architecturally distinguished non residential properties such as a church and a fire station. Marking the northern "gateway" to Harvard Avenue is the one story cast stone, concrete and brick commercial block at 382 Cambridge Street and 1-5 Harvard Avenue. With the exception of its broad bowed facade at the Harvard Avenue/Cambridge Street corner, this building is typical of commercial blocks built to accommodate the burgeoning auto trade during the 1910s and 1920s.

The Queen Anne, Georgian revival Engine House No. 40, at 10 Harvard Avenue, is already listed on the National register of Historic Places. Built in 1891, this 2.5 story firehouse is constructed of yellow brick and possesses a rectangular form. Standing with its narrow 2 bay facade facing the street, it is 5 bays in depth. Adapted for reuse as a store, the main facade's pair of garage entrances are treated as large multi-pane display windows. Exhibiting a corbelled cornice, this fire station is enclosed by a hip roof. 

The former Allston Methodist Church at 62 Harvard Street is a solid, competently rendered example of the Gothic Revival style. Parged with white stucco, this house is rectangular in form. This church stands with its west gable facing Harvard Avenue. A square, three story castelated tower is located to the left of the facade gable. The tower is slightly shorter than the gable. Access to the church is gained via a small entrance porch with a half-timbered gable. The sidewalls exhibit standard size first floor windows and arched second floor windows.

A vestibule and parish hall are located on the first floor while the sanctuary is on the second floor. This church has a fine collection of stained glass, most notably the large window on the second floor of the main facade that memorializes and was a gift from Brighton's Swift family of cattle dealers.

Across the street from the church is a one story, Craftsman style commercial block at 51-63 Harvard Avenue. Built in 1913 from designs provided by A.J. Carpenter, this rectangular row of four retail stores exhibit gables with half-timbered pediments over each entrance. Enclosed by a flat roof, red tile covered roof slopes shelter the store windows and are supported by large, saw cut brackets. Rising from the roof, at the clipped, southeast corner of the building, is an ornamental, stepped orange brick parapet.

Continuing southward along 67-73 Harvard Avenue constitutes a U-shaped, apartment building designed in the Georgian Revival, Neo Federal style. A narrow, T-shaped courtyard opens on to a rear yard. Constructed of red brick with a granite faced first floor, this three story building's four bow fronts which are ranged across the main facade like columns. The paired entrances are surrounded by rusticated granite. The windows of the upper floors are surmounted by wedge shaped, key stone lintels. This duo culminates in a molded metal cornice with a dentil course and modillion blocks.

Prominently sited at the north east comer of Harvard and Brighton avenues, the Prindiville Building at 143-155 Brighton Avenue is a handsome, V-shaped, 2-story redbrick and cast stone Tudoresque commercial block with four bays along Harvard Avenue and three bays along Brighton Avenue. Interspersed between the bays are cast stone piers which rise a few inches above the stepped parapet, culminating in spool-like finials. Although modern signage cover this building's storefronts, original transoms may still exist beneath these materials.

132-138 Brighton Avenue is a handsome tan brick and cast stone trimmed 2 story commercial block exhibiting elements of the Tapestry Brick and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. Possessing a rectangular form, its Brighton Avenue facade is 14 bays wide while the Harvard Avenue elevation is 7 bays in depth . Its facades display Tapestry brick treatments popular in the l9lOs and 1920s. The center of its Brighton Avenue facade is set off by cast stone entrance and window enframements. Shading the second floor windows are tile-covered roof slopes which project from low parapets. A clipped wall with a single bay is in evidence at its north west corner.

Unlike the northern segment of Harvard Avenue, with its municipal, ecclesiastical and apartment buildings, the southern segment between Brighton Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue is lined with one to two story commercial blocks. The long, low, two story forms of its brick, concrete and cast stone commercial blocks follow the curve of Harvard Avenue. Although extensively altered, the one story, rectangular commercial block at 116-132 Harvard Avenue is of interest as a group of store fronts interspersed with finial topped piers and sheltered by a Spanish Colonial revival red terra cotta tiled roof slope.

The Gordon Building at l49-175 Harvard Avenue is a stellar example of a mid 1920s commercial block. The great sweep of its 12 bay main facade follows the subtly curving line of Harvard Avenue. Its storefronts and large second floor windows are interspersed with plaster covered piers. Fine detail not usually accorded a commercial block geared for the automobile trade is in evidence in the rope moldings of the second floor windows and the curving low relief floral and vine motifs of its south east corner's parapet which culminates in a swans neck scroll pediment with center and corner molded torches. The relatively fine design of this building might be attributed to the fact that the second floor's first tenant was the Allston Branch of the Boston Public Library.

192-194 Commonwealth Avenue is a gem of a Neo Adamesque commercial block. Containing three retail stores, this one story, rectangular block is covered with a "skin" of white terra cotta tiles; interspersed between the display windows are engaged Ionic columns. The stores are surmounted by a low parapet exhibiting ornamental panels containing oval, neo Adamesque motifs and blind. Ionic columned arches rendered in high relief.


BAHS Home | AB Info | Neighborhoods